Into the Unknown
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29)
Sometimes we think about the people in our country who don’t know the Lord. What would it be like, not having true faith? How can men and women and children live without the joy and comfort of belonging to Christ?
It’s hard for us to imagine it, yet there are so many people who are “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). When we reflect on this, we should be filled with compassion for our lost neighbours. We should also pray to grow in our eagerness to spread the Word. And this same reality should cause us to be deeply grateful for what we know.
We know God, because God has revealed himself. He’s told us about who He is in all his perfections. He’s told us about the great things that He has done, and about the marvelous things that He’s going to do.
And yet the LORD God hasn’t told us everything—there are secrets that remain, mysteries we cannot know. In the words of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
It’s important to remember that this is said when Israel is standing on the doorstep of Canaan. Years before the LORD had delivered his covenant people from Egypt. He had endured their constant whining and rebellion, and He had disciplined them with decades of wandering in the wilderness. Now they’re finally about to cross the Jordan and enter their promised inheritance.
As Moses speaks with his people in Deuteronomy, he wants to give them one last round of loving warning, encouragement, and instruction. He won’t be going with them into the land, so Deuteronomy is something like his parting words—a final sermon. And in chapter 29, he exhorts the Israelites to consider carefully what God has revealed to them over the past years.
First there was God’s miraculous power, when He redeemed them from the cruel power of the Egyptians. Then there was God’s faithful guidance, as He brought them through the wilderness to this place. How God showed great patience, sticking with sinful Israel for so long! There was also God’s provision in giving food, clothing, and water for all those years. These weren’t the irrelevant tales from a fading history. This is how the living God revealed himself—these are the things that his people knew!
So instead of getting anxious the next time that they faced an enemy, they needed to remember. Instead of complaining the next time that food was running low, they needed to remember. Instead of turning to a false security when they felt afraid or uncertain, they needed to think: What has this God shown about himself? What are the “things He has revealed”? For those Israelites who had eyes to see, that Fatherly hand was always there.
Our eyes need to be opened too. We need to see: How has the Lord always taken care of this world, his church, and our own lives? To really know God, the act of remembering is so important. When we look back on the years, we can see that unwavering pattern of God’s faithfulness toward us in Christ Jesus.
But besides remembering history, God wants us reading Scripture. These are the “things revealed” that speak most loudly. Moses says, “the things revealed belong to us… that we may follow all the words of this law” (29:29). “This is what you have,” Moses says to the people, holding up God’s commandments. “This is your GPS as you navigate the Promised Land: the words of this law. This is the lamp to your feet: God’s Word.” And the same thing remains for us. We have God’s Word, which points us to Christ, and equips us for his service.
Yet for all that, there remains “classified” information. Across some parts of God’s will, it’s as if a curtain has been pulled—there are things we’re not allowed to know. These are the “secret things” Moses refers to. For as the people stand outside Canaan, their thoughts naturally turn to the coming years. The Israelites probably wished that they knew more. Would they really be able to fight those giants, and take those strongholds?
They had also just heard all the curses of chapters 28 and 29. Was that their future, what they had to look forward to: their land being laid waste, their children being dragged into exile? What about all those blessings? Would they really get to taste Canaan’s milk and honey? Would they live long in the land that the LORD was giving them, or would it all be short-lived and painful? This was the future, hidden in God’s counsel—the “secret things.”
But the point is that God’s people have to embrace what we know. We can build on what has been revealed. Moses says to Israel, “If in the Promised Land you keep the law, if you walk daily with the LORD and put your trust in him, then there’s no secret about what will happen: you’ll be richly blessed! You can count on it: God will be with you always.”
We also look ahead. There’s so much about tomorrow, next month, and next year that we don’t know.
What about all the global uncertainty?
What about our health?
What about the slow-down in work?
What about the kids?
Or church life?
Yes, what’s this world coming to?
There is so much of life’s pathway that is undisclosed, and the future is hidden from our view. The questions can be endless. Yet we can say it with Moses, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God” (v. 29).
That’s an immensely comforting thing to confess: they belong to God. It’s not as if He doesn’t know. It’s not as if the future is out of his hands. No, this is a knowledge that’s completely his! God has seen behind the curtain, and He’s busy directing it all.
Every event is being led and shaped according to his perfect counsel—every event: in our life, in our church, in our country and this world. We gladly leave the “secret things” to our God, because in Christ He has revealed that we can trust him always.
So what to do with what you’ve learned about the LORD? We have to use what we know. Build on his faithful promises as you go forward. Keep his commandments in all you do. And tell others what you know about your God in Christ Jesus.